Saturday, February 27, 2010

Being What You Eat.

It’s a famous phrase. We’ve all heard it: You are what you eat. It’s true, by extension in many different facets, and comes back to the famous need for education.

(I think, by now, an official disclaimer is needed: I preach very heavily on the need for green education. I fact, I think the only way to save the planet, by making the global shift to green lives, is to implement programs as young as elementary schooling, grinding green into the brain gears of the coming generation. The main argument for inactivity is lack of options. Most people falsely believe that living a greener life will take too much time, effort, and simply be a huge imposition on their part. It doesn’t have to be, everything has a simple green alternative, and we can make the shift back just the same as we made the global shift forward into industrialism: by educating the future.)

One of the most important ways to green your life is with what you eat. Today, I’m not going to talk about vegetarianism, or factory farming, I’m simply going to talk about the importance of nutritional education. Your body is a planetary microcosm. It may self regulate, but it is still vastly affected by what you do to it.

If you put junk in, your body’s performance will reflect that and give you junk right back!

This doesn’t only mean removing junk foods and sugars from your diet—it means actively educating yourself on the chemical needs of your body. Your body functions best on a slightly alkaline pH alignment, but most foods that are readily available to us are acidic! Making it hard for us to properly nourish ourselves! It has come to the point where one needs a university degree to understand how to properly feed themselves, and that is not right!

Everyone has the right to be healthy.

Nutrition Prescription, by Dr. Morgan, is a book specifically written to help people with 50 of societies most common minor ailments understand the changed chemical needs of their body. There is no magic right number for everyone when it comes to vitamins and minerals, there is only a healthy range within which our body performs optimally at—and for each ailment taxing the human body, the amount of those vitamins and minerals you need to intake changes. Dr. Morgan outlines what you may need, and what are the best sources to get it from.

Invest in a good herbalism guide. Peppermint tea, when prepared as a proper tincture, can be as effective as popping two Tylenol. Chamomile can help calm you, and eating cherries before bed can help raise your dopamine levels, resulting in a deeper and more restful sleep! An apple will wake you up more than a cup of percolated coffee, and oatmeal is the soundest breakfast you can have because of its carbohydrate content—it will literally be your nutritional ‘ground zero’ all day, making it especially good for those with blood sugar control problems!

A little education can always go a long way. These are only some ideas, a direction if you will. Once you start reading, you will wonder how the art of nutrition was ever such a daunting task!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Eggplant Cannelloni

Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 large shallots, sliced
4 cloves garlic
2 jars (12 oz each) roasted red peppers, drained
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (juice of 1 orange)

2 medium eggplants, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices
olive oil cooking spray

4 oz goat cheese
4 kalamata olives, pitted and minced
1 teaspoon capers, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook shallots and garlic until soft, about 1 minute. Reduce heat. Cook until golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Add peppers and juice; bring to a boil. Lower heat; simmer until peppers are soft, about 5 minutes. Cool. Puree in a blender. Pour into a 9" x 13" baking dish.

Coat eggplants with cooking spray and broil on a baking sheet until golden on both sides, about 15 minutes.

Heat oven to 400˚.

Mash cheese, olives, capers and 1 tbsp of the parsley in a bowl. Place 1 tbsp of filling at the end of each eggplant slice; roll up. Lay seam side down in dish. Bake 10 to 15 minutes. Top with remaining 1 tbsp parsley.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Serves 4

1 cup dried chickpeas or 16 oz. can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans.
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons flour
Oil for frying

Place dried chickpeas in a bowl, covering with cold water. Allow to soak overnight. Omit this step if using canned beans.

Drain chickpeas, and place in pan with fresh water, and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 5 minutes, then let simmer on low for about an hour. Drain and allow to cool for 15 minutes.

Combine chickpeas, garlic, onion, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper (to taste) in medium bowl. Add flour. Mash chickpeas, ensuring to mix ingredients together. You can also combine ingredients in a food processor. You want the result to be a thick paste.

Form the mixture into small balls, about the size of a ping pong ball. Slightly flatten.

Fry in 2 inches of oil at 350 degrees until golden brown (5-7 minutes).

Serve hot.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Green Read

Life requires education. It is like everything else. It must be taken with a grain of salt. When information is not readily available, you must exercise your due diligence as a human being to remain informed on the things that can affect you. From human laws, to human nature, one must remain in a state of constant education.

I have long prided myself at able being to disconnect from the global fascination that is the grotesque swelling of celebrity, but I must risk my credibility by spotlighting a few that I do actively follow. (Why do I follow? Well, celebrities read and inform themselves just as we do. The only difference is, they are in a position with global attention and often share their findings with those for an ear to listen.) Natalie Portman is one of them. She is secretly the reigning queen of the vegan world. In 2007, she launched (and unfortunately went under) a vegan shoe company. She puts her foot down at fashion shoots and on movie sets, refusing to wear anything that has been derived of animals.
Another stone maiden of the vegan world is the lovely Olivia Wilde. I follow Olivia for her green lifestyle more than her diet. The set of House did not recycle before she got there. She remains unwavering on set and at publicity shoots by famously demanding that there not only be vegan options at every meal, but by also demanding that everything they put to her skin is green—and she makes them prove it to her. Plus, she simply gets points for having grown up on a bus.

I am not a vegan. I am a vegetarian. I eat eggs, cook with milk, and sweeten my food with honey—not sugar. My theory is simple: if it can be obtained without hurting the animal and if it’s not factory farmed, then it’s okay—how do I ensure it’s not factory farmed? I hop on my bike (cheekily dubbed my greenmobile) and I bike to local farmers markets. I wear wool, but not leather. And in my realm of vegetarianism, fish count as animals.

That is my personal view, and I know that there are varying levels of commitment to every lifestyle.

That being said, I thought I’d share some of the places where I get my green life education!

James Lovelock’s brilliant book on the coined ‘Gaia Theory’ was truly visionary, and to me, made the most scientifically arguments on why to go green, that I could no longer, in good conscience, do nothing. It’s one of the most important arguments anyone will make, and is slowly stirring the world of science into awareness.

I came across the following book while I was checking up on the happenings around Natalie Portman. The author is a friend of hers. There is no real collective way to address the topic of meat. It is not so very cut and dry. Each farm farms differently. Each slaughter house slaughters differently. It is not a clear case for vegetarianism, but rather, a book with the goal of informing, so that the case is made to you and you can decide your varying commitment.

“Sugar is poison, and I won’t have it in my body, or in my house.” These are the famous words Gloria Swanson spoke to William Dufty upon their first meeting, and it sparked the frighteningly truth about what sugar does to the human body. Just imagine: When sugar is refined, the discard that does not make it into the sugar bag must be discarded as toxic waste! So, just what are you putting in your body?

Parabens in creams. Talc in powders. Lead in lipstick. Mercury in mascara. If you only knew what you put to your skin in the quest for beauty, you’d be disgusted, and you’d be angry. While it’s true that these are minute amounts, consider that you wear these minute amounts everyday, for eight hours a day. That’s a third of your life!

Olivia Wilde is quite particular about the effects of her living space upon her. She once went on record saying that her house would even be painted with organic paint. I found that statement not long after discovering this book:
These simple recipes will keep your house looking beautiful without adding to toxic output. You will be astounded by the difference in your health you can make just by decorating your house green.

I’ve stressed before the importance of building green. It’s healthier and cheaper! This book is a beautiful how-to manual, making the idea a little less daunting.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Chilled Almond Soup

Serves 4

150g really good quality day old bread
225g shelled almonds (in skins)
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1½ tbsp sherry vinegar
220ml extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
372ml ice-cold water (approximately)

To serve

1 perfectly ripe fig
1 tbsp rose syrup, or extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley (optional)

Remove the crust from the bread, then cut into cubes and place in a bowl. Add cold water to cover and allow to soak for 2-3 minutes, then squeeze out excess water and set aside.

Drop the almonds into a pan of boiling water and leave for a minute or two, then remove. When cool enough to handle, slip the nuts out of their skins. (This is not enough to cook the almonds and will only serve to loosen the skins, leaving you with all the nut's nutrients.)

Put the garlic, almonds, bread, sherry vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Then, with the motor running, slowly pour in the ice-cold water until the soup is the thickness of double cream. Discard remaining water.

The consistency is very important—too thick and it would feel cloying, too thin and it would be unsubstantial. Pour into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for an hour or longer, until really well chilled.

Ladle the soup into soup plates. Cut the fig into thin wedges and lay two of these in the center of each bowl. Drizzle with a tiny amount of rose syrup, or extra virgin olive oil if you prefer. Scatter over some finely chopped parsley to serve.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


It’s a deep, dark secret of mine that I one day hope to live in a house I built myself. Why is that deep and dark? Well, it’s no secret that I’m no architect, and I’ve been known to come up with some pretty out-there house designs, as I’ve been refining plans since the tenth grade. I’m also a bit of a space-cadet. I know what I like and that’s final. The only problem is it’s rarely what the rest of the world likes. Where I live will inevitably be a reflection of the things I’ve loved from my intercontinental travels. I will have to battle with resale values and inevitably leaving my house to somebody in my will when I die at the ripe old age of 100—but I can always dream green until then.

Whether building or up-fitting your home, green is always the way to go!

For the methods I’ll spotlight in today’s post, I will be working from the ground up.

Warm Foundation.
No matter the project, the foundation must come first. If planned from the get-go, you can incorporate radiant floor heating. I love this heating style for many reasons:
• it is a more efficient form of heating than baseboard, radiator, and circulated air heating methods. More efficient means less energy is needed to keep your home at the temperature you like it to be.
• it works without circulating air, eliminating many air-born toxins, making in hypoallergenic.
• it is a globally accepted law of physics: hot air rises. Heating the lowest point of your home helps to distribute heat evenly.

Concrete Floors and You.
Your foundation floor is concrete no matter what you do. If you’ve been a good little bunny and used radiant floor heating, the idea of leaving your floors unadorned seems a little less daunting. Polishing concrete floors can leave them with a beautiful finish similar to that of marble, but at a fraction of the price.
There are benefits to this method too:
• finishing your floors without a top level makes it hypoallergenic. There are no carpets to collect pet dander, or to stain, for that matter.
• no carpets means no replacement cost. Added floor coverings don’t last forever and typically need to be cycled every ten years. By honoring this method, you’ve reduced your home’s cost of upkeep for years to come!

Little Piggy’s Straw House.
We all know the famous story of the three little pigs, each with their houses of straw, sticks and bricks. Given the choice, I’d like to build on the first of the three!
The only place the famous little piggy went wrong is finishing. Straw bale houses would not last very long without finished walls. Straw is traditionally considered a waste material, and finding a use for waste is among the greenest things you can do. Little piggy would have found that his house was healthiest of all three if he’d only lime-plastered the walls!
Lime plastered walls facilitate a sort of air exchange. Fresh air outside travels in and the air inside your home travels out. Plastered straw bale walls function on a similar principle as your winter coat: it keeps you warm by insulating with a pocket of air around you. The air exchange keeps the air that travels into your home clean, without the use of an air purifier, and the natural fibers help regulate indoor humidity.

Realizing Natural Light.
Strategically design your home to get the most light out of day time hours.
Do a little bit of research to find out where you are with reference to the zodiac (the sun’s year long path through the sky.) Will large north-facing windows help cut down on your heating costs? It’s worth the investigation. The less you have to manually and intentionally harvest energy, the better—for both you, your pocket book, and the planet.

Flax for Rescued Wood.
If you’re like me, and think of a loft as a way to create rooms in an open-concept living area, we now have to talk about a green material for this new floor that you need to build. The answer is rescued wood. I love rescued wood because, for me, it stands for beauty and old world charm. They remind me of my little childhood town in Germany, where timber frames abound.
Rescued wood need not be an item that forces you to cringe, because it can be re-planed to achieve the even surface that may have warped over the years.
Hardwood cannot go unfinished for long as it will discolour and splinter as it continues to lose moisture. Artificial sealing agents are harsh and prevent the wood from doing what it naturally wants to do, so use flaxseed oil (also known as Linseed oil.) Linseed oil particles are naturally a hundredth of the size of the smallest crevices in a plank of wood, meaning it is able to permeate deep into your hardwood floors. Because the wood already naturally has something in it, filling up all its empty spaces, the wood will not absorb excess liquids. While spills still need to be cleaned, there is no need to worry that your unsealed floors have been ruined.
Also, linseed oil is anti-static, meaning that dust will not cling to, and collect on your beautiful green floors. Hypoallergenic and easy to clean.

Your home should be your calm and safe place. Consider adding a couple drops of an aromatic oil like lavender or juniper to your floor’s linseed oil treatment and you will be imparted with a lovely lingering scent, ready to calm you down whenever you come home, that’s a whole lot more natural than an air-freshener.

Raising the Bar on Roofs.
I am an avid fan of the concept of living off-grid. Setting up solar panels on your roof could make an impact on your carbon footprint. Store the energy you collect in batteries and insulate your roof well, so that your house holds onto the heating energy it does need. Even a cloudy day provides energy!

Green Gardens on Green Roofs.
This is a practice I fell in love with in Europe—converting roof space into a garden!
Keep a modest vegetable garden or grow your herbs! Part of being green is using the space you have to alleviate your load on the planet.
Earth is one of the greatest insulators, making this an excellent way to top off your very own green house!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Upcycle, she said.

The global push to be more ecologically conscious has led to many seemingly green options. From organic cottons, to soy protein fabrics, the world presents us with new things everyday to fill our closets with shamelessly, while seemingly satiating our consciences. But a problem remains: What to do with all that ‘stuff’ we bought before?

I’ve often maintained that the greenest thing you have is the thing you didn’t have to buy, so while I must offer my unadulterated congratulations to the brilliant minds that made corn, soy, bamboo, and wood pulp into wearable fabrics—we have not healed the planet long enough to go on consuming, green as these alternatives may be. As a society, we must slam the brakes on ‘new’ consumerism entirely, because all those things we throw away still choke the planet. We must use what’s already here and we must use it to its fullest extent.

The answer? Upcycle.

My first major ‘upcycle’ project was at the tender age of 18—sure, I had turned pants into shorts before then, but the first big project was epic… and in retrospect, probably not the right place for it. I made a dress for a black-tie event out of a bed sheet—yes, a bed sheet.

It was a surprising hit and I don’t think I ever bought a dress for a black-tie affair after that. The question became not “where did you get your dress?” but “what was this before you wore it?” I’ve made dresses from bed sheets, old drapery, belly dance veils, factory ends; shirts from scarves, older shirts, and cottons that I’ve dyed myself. I’ve unraveled poorly sized knit sweaters from Value Village and reused the yarn to make projects from pictures I’ve seen in magazines.

It’s really not that hard.

The rules of fashion are simple and finite: Fashion changes. Plain and simple. What’s in today will probably be out tomorrow, and for a fashionista: keeping up can be a daunting task. However, the odds are in your favour! Solomon said there’s nothing new under the sun and the world of fashion is no different—it’s all been done before, giving you far more options than you may think!

Consider the obvious: Everything was originally made by somebody.

You can easily make the drab ‘fab’ all over again, simply by learning the basics. The global shift to peasant tops makes this a fantastic time to try updating something. Success means one less item in the land fill.

I hope you’ve been good over the years and stocked up on cotton, because cotton is the secret weapon of any upcycler! It gets points for universal versatility, is easy to maintain and has one of the lowest skin-irritability rates of any fabric.

One of the main reasons I love cotton is that it can easily be stripped of dyes and redyed. You can use things you never would have suspected, to get some of the most beautiful dyes, without ever compromising on being green! Experiment with spices to see what colours you can come up with—brilliant mustard yellow, cinnamon stick brown, paprika and chili powder reds. Here are some dyes traditionally sources from various roots in Tibet.

Use a worn part of the material that you will not be reusing to do test dye swatches. Consider keeping the swatches labeled neatly in a book afterwards, you’ll soon learn what colours you like and what colours to not bother testing.

I can’t say I love Kristen Stewart, but the girl’s got style, and she lends her red-carpet looks well to this topic. I always make a point on finding out what she wore to the award shows, because sometimes you get gems like these:

She’s practically a fabric printer’s fashion dream in these two dresses!

Fabric printing is brilliantly easy, and once you get the hang of it, it’s hard to leave fabric alone.The example above is done with ink blocks and paper, but the principle is easily transferable to fabric. Always remember to pin your fabric in place, and lay a piece of board between the layers so the dyes don’t bleed through to the next layer of fabric.
Personally, I find using a water soluble dye (root dye) for the base colour works best, and I often layer vegetable-oil soluble dyes (spice dyes) to print over my base. You can use paint brushes to brush on a root dye to achieve a look similar to Kristen’s second dress, where the pattern center is left white.
Colour fasting can get tricky when using these dyes. I like to do it in a few steps. First, I mix vinegar and salt in a spray bottle, and spray down the project, leaving it to air dry. How many times I repeat this step varies based on how contrasting the colours I’ve used are, whether I’ve left any virgin material on the project (dye-free areas), and how much colour I’m willing to lose over time. Step two is quite simple: submerge the dyed article in vinegar and leave for a few days, changing the vinegar every 48 hours.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Spicing up your life.

When you’re a vegetarian, you learn to use spices for all they’re worth. We fill our cupboards with them relentlessly, but did you know these wonderful powders and seeds can do so much more than just add flavour to your food? In fact, the news I’m about to impart you with may make your spice cupboard your long-overlooked best friend!

I shared before that I am a huge advocate of Indonesian jamu--now it’s time to make you a fan. Be prepared to stock up on the likes of cinnamon, clove, black pepper, rosemary, thyme, peppermint, ginger and cardamom, because they’re not only good for your taste buds and your winter runny nose, but they’re also year-long warriors for your skin!
I stand around 5’7” and tip the scale at about 110lbs (that’s about 50 kilos flat). I belong to the 10% of the population the bikini was designed for, and even I, with my yoga regimes and sugar-free diet, used to have problems with stubborn fat and cellulite. When people ask my secret, I tell them: “Buy black pepper, cinnamon and peppermint in bulk, drink lots of water and green tea and invest in a stiff-bristled brush.

To try this treatment, you can start by using omega-3 oil capsules, which are readily purchasable at many local pharmacies. You can worry about other oils later; first, it’s most important to be in a routine.
Your daily routine can look something like this:

Puncture the oil capsules to get to the oil inside and mix with finely ground black pepper and cinnamon. (I always suggest these first because most of us have them readily available in our cupboards.) In the shower, scrub trouble areas, then proceed to washing your hair, giving the mixture time to do its job. It’s going to tingle, that’s a good thing. This tingling sensation is actually the capillaries under your skin expanding and increasing blood flow to the area. The thermogenic effect boils down to one thing: more blood in means more toxins out.
Rinse the scrub off and continue washing as per your usual daily routine. When you’re all done and you turn the water off, it’s time for your trusty body brush!
With swift strokes, starting at your feet, and moving in a circular manner around your limbs, brush up towards your heart. Start with your legs, continue to your arms, then come back to your torso. This will not only loosen dead skin cells, but it gets those toxins a-moving! When you’re all done, continue on to moisturizing with the green-favourite organic coconut oil. (As this becomes a bigger part of your daily routine, you’re notice you need less and less moisturizer.)

As with anything in the beauty world, we need to set some time aside for the more heavy duty aspects, but this will never seem like a burden once you get into the habit of setting time aside. Ideally, this should be done twice a week. Try to aim for a Wednesday evening and a weekend, because it’s spa-time!
This particular spa experience is directly based on the Indonesian practice of lulur. Lulur originated in the palace and would last for forty days, preparing a princess for marriage. Today, it’s a highly rejuvenating and pampering practice. It’s bi-weekly use should leave you feeling soft, supple, green, and simply royal.
Start with a good body brushing this time, because the idea here is for a full body detox. Add some thyme and a bay leaf or two to a much larger portion of scrub than you would use for daily use. Thyme is fantastic for boosting energy—perfect for those drab winter months—and bay leaf combats depression and promotes a sense of well being. If you want, you can finely grind (then soak) rice granules for a more effective body scrub.

Grapeseed oil is a much better candidate for your full body scrub than your daily-use omega-3, simply because of sheer amount and viscosity.
Finish off with a relaxing soak in jasmine and ylang ylang bath water. Moisturize and rest, because beautiful skin needs its beauty sleep.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


I’m not a terribly difficult person to understand. In fact, I’m the opposite: I’m very simple. Something it never takes anybody very long to learn is that I’m obsessed with Asian culture. Generally speaking, I just like culture, and we’ll eventually cover all the things that have caught my attention, from vegetable and tea dyeing tribal-inspired tunics, to the spice based spa teachings of Indonesian “jamu”—which, by the way, I heavily advocate.

Today, however, we return to the green principles everyone knows as “the 3 Rs”, as always: taking care of the planet while taking care of yourself!

There are many things my mother unknowingly taught me that lend themselves well to a green lifestyle, even though she is far from green. My mother taught me to be creative with food; as a vegetarian raising two children, she needed to find interesting alternatives to cucumber sandwiches—and voila! My dedication to the bento box was born.
Colourful combinations of carrot sticks and rice, with what, to this day, I only know by the name of “mopple”, set me apart at school lunchtime and it simply stuck.

“Bento” is simply a term that means boxed lunch. You can buy bento boxes online or at Asian specialty stores. They come in a variety of shapes, styles and sizes—from sleek and utilitarian, to cute and colourful. Most have inner partitions for food groups. I love them because they’re reusable, and are traditionally wrapped in a scarf that doubles as a napkin or place mat; and in this scarf-wrapping, you can (gasp!) pack your own utensils!

Typically, a bento meal consists of the following:
• rice
• protein (meat, tofu, or eggs—depending on your diet)
• vegetables
Making for a balanced meal. Sometimes a bento box also carries a sweet dessert. ♥ Desserts can range from simple cupcakes or scones, to one of my favourites: honey and sesame fried pumpkin.

But, by no means, limit yourself to this, or even to Asian cooking. I often pack my bento with colourful Indian foods. One of my favourite examples of what might go into a western bento box was in the new Nancy Drew movie.

Explore different food styles so as not to get bored! Because I am gluten-intolerant, a lot of rice goes into my bento boxes, but I never get bored because I’ve discovered many different varieties. I never use “Uncle Ben’s”, and it’s nothing personal, I simply find it very bland. I use a lot of sushi rice, as well as “Lundberg” rice blends. I love their “wild” blend and even more so their “black japonica” blend, which once cooked has a beautiful mahogany colour!

There’s nothing better than a beautiful and colourful lunch waiting for you to keep you dining in!